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Episode 18: Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971: I.

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Today's free download features the first movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971, performed by pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971: I.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano
J.S. Bach: Italian Concerto | French Overture | Vladimir Ashkenazy
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There are mock turtlenecks, mock apple pies – and there’s even a Bach mock concerto. It’s a three-movement work that Bach wrote into his self-published collection called Clavier-übung, or Keyboard Exercise. Bach’s title for the piece was “Concerto after the Italian Taste,” but it’s known now as simply the Italian Concerto. The Italian part is the three-movement structure, with two fast outer movements and a slow inner movement. The concerto designation is where things get interesting. A concerto is a composition for an orchestra and a soloist or a group of soloists, but Bach’s work is for one player on one instrument. And that’s the “mock” part. Through only changes of texture and voicing, Bach gives the effect of a solo instrument playing with a larger ensemble. That effect is made a little bit clearer in Bach’s original designation to play this on a two-manual harpsichord, which offers some more obvious changes in timbre, but it happens even on a single-manual harpsichord or on a piano. Listen for those concerto elements as Vladimir Ashkenazy plays the first movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto.

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